Departamento de Santander

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  • Day189

    Extended stay in Colombia

    March 14 in Colombia ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    When we woke up at 6am, there was no running water. As this has happened before, we decided to sleep a little longer as waiting usually solves the problem. And indeed, at 7:30am, the water was back on.
    We had breakfast and started our cycling day by pushing the bikes out of Aratoca because the roads were too steep to ride. Back on the main road, we could get back on the bicycles, and continue our trip to San Gil. It was a nice and easy ride with some climbing at the beginning but a great and long downhill into the town. The scenery was cool as well and we heard the crazily loud noise of grasshoppers most of the time.
    We only cycled about 30km today as we are taking it slowly at the moment. Due to the Coronavirus, South American countries are closing their borders to foreigners. So we figured we may as well take our time to see more of Colombia. Our visa does not expire until end of May and there's heaps to see and bike here.
    In San Gil, we checked into a hostal. Here, we also heard the expected news that Ecuador will close its borders tonight, Peru on Monday. So I guess we'll really have some more time to explore this diverse country.
    The town seems to be a backpackers' mekka, you can do all adrenaline stuff such as rafting, bungee jumping, paragliding, caving, canyoning... We just went for a walk around the town with its crazily steep roads, checked out a view point and the central square, did some chores and cooked dinner at the hostal.
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  • Day190


    March 15 in Colombia ⋅ ☁️ 25 °C

    The advantage of taking it slowly due to an uncertain situation is that we have more time to explore. So today, we cycled to Barichara, a village North of San Gil. The road was paved with few traffic, so we could enjoy the 500m climb followed by a 400m downhill through the mountains, passing some really nice farm houses.
    In Barichara, we could leave our bikes at the sister hostal of our hostal in San Gil. This enabled us to walk around the village - far better than on bikes as some roads were steep and there were cobblestones everywhere.
    All houses were painted in white, which looked really beautiful. We saw the central square, the church, a chapel, the rock art park with some sculptures and the impressive cemetery. As Barichara is famous for its rock artists, most of the gravestone include a piece of art such as angels but also a football, hats, books or even a guitar.
    As it was quite hot, we decided to take a local bus to Guane. It's a little further North of Barichara, only 8km but 500m lower in elevation. Here we tried Sabajón, a drink of whisky mixed with milk, and the local icecream. The museum was closed during lunch hours, so we skipped it.
    While we were waiting for the bus back to Barichara, there was a public announcement through loudspeakers on the main square. They were going to close the museum to protect the village from tourists bringing in Corona. He is generally right, of course, but as the major of the village repeated this about 20 times, it was a weird feeling sitting there as an obvious tourist with locals staring at you.
    Luckily, the bus arrived 5 minutes later, we went back to Barichara and rode back to San Gil from there. Grocery shopping, dinner at the hostel and route planning for tomorrow before going to sleep.
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  • Day193

    Daytrip in the mountains

    March 18 in Colombia ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Next day of Covid-19 prevention: we started with smoothies for breakfast to fill up our vitamines. Then we headed took another remote road out of the city. This time, our destination was Mogotes. It started with a 600m elevation gain before we had a curvy rolling stretch.
    Shortly before Mogotes we passed a health control. They took our data and asked about any symptoms. As we don't show any and would return back to San Gil, we had no problems passing. In the village, we enjoyed some yummy empanadas before going back home.
    In general, we see more and more people with face masks. I'm tempted to ask them if they are all sick, but don't want to risk getting in trouble 😏
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  • Day195

    Getting ready for the lockdown

    March 20 in Colombia ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    In the Santander, the state we are in right now, there'll be an obligatory general curfew starting tonight. For now, it's only for 78 hours, but who knows? Anyways, we are preparing for staying in our hostel in San Gil for a while. So first we bought some Spanish books and a puzzle to kill time indoors. Furthermore, we used the time for studying more Spanish.
    Today, we went for a final bike ride before we can't go outdoors anymore. We cycled uphill to the tiny airport and followed some dirt roads before heading back to town. Finding our way back to the main road wasn't easy as most turns ended on a private property. But people were always friendly and directed us back on the main track.
    Back home, we had a hot shower as it was relatively cold (18°C). Afterwards, we went grocery shopping, so we have the basics for the next 4 days.
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  • Day200

    Day 200 and the quarantine

    March 25 in Colombia ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    Who would have thought that we spend our 200th day of our trip locked up in a house in Colombia because of a worldwide epidemic? Noone could have predicted this, that's for sure!!
    In Colombia, travel has been largely restricted since 16th of March. Since last Friday night, there's state curfews, so it isn't allowed for people to leave the house anymore, except for grocery shopping or going to a doctor or similar. At midnight today, a nationwide curfew started, so these rules apply in all of Colombia.
    We still think we are kind of lucky because we found a good place to stay during this difficult situation. First, the climate in San Gil is nice. Temperatures during the night drop to about 20 degrees, so we don't need airconditioning or a fan during the night. Before 10am and after 4pm, temperatures are cool enough to exercise.
    Secondly, we have running water all day, electricity, a fully working kitchen and a bed. What sounds normal to most people is actually not everyday life for everyone here in Colombia.
    Thirdly, we also have quite some space in the building including a patio, so we can see the sky even if we have to stay at home. It's not allowed to leave the house for exercising, so we use it for online trainings. Good to see there's heaps of offers on YouTube such as Yoga or #lederhosentraining.
    In general, we try to keep a daily routine: get up around 6:30am, start with breakfast and followed by our morning exercise. During the hot hours, we puzzle, study Spanish, read, catch up with the news or with friends and family. Once it cools down, we do our evening workout, followed by dinner. Before going to bed, we usually watch some comedy online. We found a way to download videos on the phone, transfer it to the camera and connect it to the tv, so we have a big screen to watch it. In general, we prefer older comedy shows with last year's topics to get a break from Corona.
    Yesterday was a highlight in our routine. In between state and national curfew, there was a day of a break. We took our bikes and went uphill for a ride to exercise a little. It was soooo good for our souls to be outdoors, a totally different feeling!! And again, we are lucky to be in San Gil as there's mountains all around. We can make 600m elevation gain on remote roads in only 10km. So we don't even have to go far in order to get a decent training and enjoy the views. Unfortunately, the officials here realized that all people used the "free" day to go out. So we got sent back to town when a firefighter passed us on his scooter. He also critized us for not wearing a face masks.
    In general, people go crazy about the masks here. 95% of the people here wear them which is scary to us. We refused so far, but when someone yelled at us on the road again when going shopping, we decided to wear some as well. Lucky, we still had the ones we received in California which were supposed to protect is against the smoke of the fires. They won't help against the virus, but people here are satisfied and we won't end up in the news as the foreigners who refuse to wear masks... Anyways, apart from groceries, we could also buy a skipping rope and 3 balls for juggling which will hopefully distract us a little during the next 19 days.
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  • Day233

    A first little step towards freedom

    April 27 in Colombia ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Unfortunately, we are still in San Gil and still in lockdown, as the Colombian Government extended the curfew until 11 May for now. This means, we'll be staying here for at least 2 more weeks.
    The last 2 weeks, we followed our daily routine of workouts, yoga, reading, eating... We found a German beer in the supermarket, discovered a super cheap absolutely amazing burger place with delivery service and perfected our do-it-yourself mobile and beer stand for our regular movie nights. We also had some video calls with friends which is a really good distraction from our daily life inside a house.
    However, something has changed positively starting from today: the president realized that exercising outdoors is important for one's health. It's generally restricted to morning hours (5-8am) and within 1km radius of your house. So, of course, first thing we did this morning was going out for fast walking around the blocks close to our hostel.
    Once we got back, we found out, that in San Gil, they actually restricted the exercising hours based on the last number of your passport: for example, with my "8", I'm allowed to exercise for one hour on Tuesdays, 7-9am and Fridays, 5-7am. Good the police didn't check us today 😉
    Furthermore, we got 2 new housemates: the hostel owner and his mum moved in as they had to give up their apartment during this time with no income. Andrés, our housemate up til now, on the other hand, moved back to his aunt and uncle to work in their workshop to earn some money. Today, we helped moving the furniture out of the apartment which provided another excuse to get out 😉
    Let's see what is going to come in the next couple of weeks..
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  • Day249

    The end is near

    May 13 in Colombia ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    We've lost count of our days in lockdown already... It's been almost 2 months now that we can't move on. After 6 months of continuous travelling, we are stuck in a town, even in one house, which is a difficult situation. We are lucky to be healthy, to have friends to video-call with and people who support us here in Colombia with offering us a nice place to stay. However, when they announced another extension of the lockdown until 25th May, we decided to look for flight opportunities back to Europe. It was a hard decision for us, but with still increasing numbers of Covid infections in Colombia as well as in other South American countries, we don't believe (bike) travelling will be easily possible any time soon in this region. So now we are waiting for either moving up on the waiting list for European repatriation flights (German flights already left beginning of April) or for the airport to reopen for commercial international flights. Let's see...

    In general, there's a very regional strategy to confront the pandemic here in Colombia. As San Gil is - luckily - a "Corona-free" town, most of the businesses can open again. They also allow us to do grocery shopping 2x per week again - based on your passport number - and exercise any day between Monday and Friday within the borders of the town (no radius of 1km anymore) for one hour between 5 and 8am. We totally made use of this little freedom and cycled to the regional airport, 10km and 500m of elevation away from our hostal. This is also the border of San Gil as you can see by the blocked road. However, we are really happy to feel the wind again around our heads 😊
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  • Day187

    Entering a different world

    March 12 in Colombia ⋅ 🌧 24 °C

    The day started a little different compared to the last weeks: there were some raindrops when we started cycling. And pretty much from the beginning, we had to climb. The landscape changed completely, from dry and flat we entered a green and mountainous world with temperatures under 30°C - what a relief! We also had a longer breakfast stop at a roadside restaurants, as we didn't have hurry to beat the sun.
    We climbed to about 1200m where the road started rolling through some villages, lots of agricultural land and a bigger cacao city.
    Around noon, we reached Giron after a 500m elevation drop, a beautiful colonial village in the mountains, all painted in white. We had a short lunch break before continuing on a busy highway with no proper shoulder. We did a semi-circle around Bucaramanga, the capital of this department, in order to go further South. In Piedecuesta, a small but busy village, we called it a day and stayed in a basic hotel.
    Lots of nice people on the road today. First, Angelica on her motorcycle stopped next to us for a chat and to give us her number in case we need help. Later, Andrés cycled next to us for a short talk about our trip. We also exchanged numbers to stay in contact. He seems to be motivated to do bike touring as well, so maybe we can inspire him a bit more. In general, many people cheered and gave us a thumbs up which is always encouraging on a climb!
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  • Day191

    Corona stop

    March 16 in Colombia ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    It seems like we are stuck for a while. This morning, we got the news that hotels have to close (including our hostel) and some regions (including Santander where we are in at the moment) don't let travellers pass anymore.
    The owner of the hostel offered us to stay here for a while. As it's a nice place (the hostel as well as the region), we decided to stay and observe the situation. We really don't want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with no hotel options around.
    So first thing we did was to buy fruit, vegetables and beer (toilet paper was sold out already, but there's still enough in the hostel 😉). We also registered at the local secretary of health. They took our personal information as well as our health status (no symptons). They told us that we shouldn't have any problems because we've been in the country for 15 days now (JUST), which is considered to be the critical time for bringing the virus into the country. We didn't get any official certificate, but can always refer to the registration in case we get stopped by the police.
    Then, Herbert replaced the chains of the bikes which he was going to do anyways some time soon. Our temporary Australian housemate Ishan prepared sandwiches for lunch and a peanut butter curry for dinner.
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  • Day186

    Replanning the route

    March 11 in Colombia ⋅ ⛅ 32 °C

    What an awful day on the bike! Highway again, lots of heavy traffic, headwinds, and a flat boring scenery. The highlight was a quick stop for a fresh orange juice including a nice chat with the vendor and her friend.
    After 85km going South, we saw an old bridge next to the new bridge which was only open for pedestrians. We pulled over to get a short rest about 100m away from the traffic and decided that we did not want to go any further on that highway. So we replanned our route and took the next turn East towards Bucaramanga. On this road, there's less traffic. Plus, they built a new road which is not open yet, but perfectly passable by bike.
    We still called it a day after 10 more km, found a basic hotel and cooked a fresh pasta salad.
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Departamento de Santander

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